DAVIDSON, N.C. - Looking to secure its second four-game winning streak of the season, the Mercer University football team used 397 rushing yards and rolled past Davidson 51-26 at Richardson Stadium in Pioneer Football League action.
The Bears (8-1, 4-1) win their second straight road contest and continue their unprecedented first-year run through the PFL as Davidson (0-9, 0-6) remains winless on the season. With the win, Mercer remains a half game behind the conference leaders and even in the loss column with three weeks remaining in the regular season.
"This is a lot of fun," said head coach Bobby Lamb. "These kids are enjoying the ride and coming on the road and getting another win is big for our confidence. We are headed in the right direction and we just have to continue that."
For the second straight game freshman running back JeTarii Donald stole the show, rushing for 202 yards on 24 carries and finishing with three total touchdowns. John Russ was equally impressive, crossing the century mark in the air and on the ground with 123 yards rushing and 136 passing. The duo combined for six total touchdowns.
Pinned down on its own 1-yard line to open the game, Mercer proved resilient with the long field and used Donald runs of 32 and 21 yards to open up some breathing room and John Russ capped the 99-yard touchdown drive with a quarterback sneak to give Mercer an early 7-0 lead.
After nearly 12 minutes of scoreless action, Davidson broke through with a four-play 47-yard touchdown drive and converted a two-point attempt to take an 8-7 lead. The one-point deficit marked the first time Mercer trailed in three games.
As they have all season, the Bears had an answer three minutes later when Donald exploded through the line of scrimmage, split a pair of Davidson defenders and was off to the races for a 57-yard touchdown to give Mercer the lead right back at 14-8.
The Bears held that six-point lead until the final minute of the first half when Davidson fired a pass to the right side that was tipped in the air by Lendell Arnold and into the hands of Mike Gray. The freshman avoided a pair of tackles and returned the interception 34 yards for a touchdown to send Mercer into intermission with a 21-8 advantage.
"We knew we were in for a dog fight, but the big play in the first half was the interception," Lamb said. "Lendell Arnold tipped it and Mike Gray took it back for a touchdown which was huge."
Davidson struck first in the second half with a 7-yard touchdown pass, but the ensuing two-point conversion was fumbled and Sebastian Hicks scooped up the loose ball for a 99-yard return for two points the other way. The two-point swing gave Mercer a 23-16 lead.
The Bears and Wildcats traded another set of touchdowns in the third quarter and Russ led the way for Mercer again, breaking free for a 30-yard touchdown run to give Mercer a 30-20 lead heading to the fourth quarter.
It only took two plays in the fourth quarter for Donald to add to his stellar day when he broke the plain for a 4-yard touchdown, giving Mercer a commanding 37-20 advantage with 14:06 to play.
Donald was at it again just three minute later when he took a short pass from Russ, made three defenders miss and raced to the end zone for a 51-yard touchdown to give Mercer a 44-20 lead. Caleb Brown added a touchdown run with 16 seconds left and Mercer cruised to a 51-26 road victory.
The Bears have scored at least 30 points in all eight of their victories this season and finished just short of 400 yards on the ground with 397. The offense tallied 533 yards and added five rushing touchdowns.
Donald, JT Palmer and Josh Jones all finished with three receptions, while Corey Lockett was stellar on the defensive side of the ball with one sack and three tackles for loss.
After back-to-back road games, the Bears return home next Saturday and welcome Jacksonville to town in a key Pioneer Football League contest. Kickoff against the Dolphins is slated for 3 p.m. at Mercer University Stadium.